Science Building, Award to be Renamed After Church Scandal


Kailene Nye, Reporter

The science building and an honorary doctorate will be renamed after a grand jury report exposed bishops for covering up acts of sexual misconduct among Catholic priests.

The Hafey-McCormick Science Building, which was partially named after Bishop Joseph McCormick, will be called The Science Hall after renovation is complete, and the Doctor of Humane Letters degree will be re-awarded, as it was revoked from Bishop James Timlin.

President Thomas Botzman said the Board of Trustees is in charge of naming buildings and awards and therefore made the final decision to have them changed after the report was released to the public.

“It’s the appropriate process when we have something of that magnitude that says to us we have not properly upheld our charge, as individuals or collectively, on an issue of extreme importance. This is certainly one, so they were the right actions to take,” he said.

Botzman said it was an important response on behalf of the university because of the message of support it sends to victims and others affected.

“It’s important for us to think about how do we say what happened is wrong, it continues to be wrong, and we need to make sure that there’s a lot of healing there. A lot of people have been hurt, and the hurt doesn’t stop by the actions we just took, and we have to continue down that process. It says we’re aware, we see it, we get it.”

Sister Jean Messaros, Vice President of Mission Integration, agreed with Botzman, saying the actions were important because they made a statement.

“I think we have to make a statement to the church, to the people around us that that was wrong. They were aware. They chose to make other decisions,” she said.

Messaros said the removal of the names came as no surprise  because similar actions are happening around the state as more information on these cases comes to light. She said the university is following along and honoring the responses taking place in other areas.

“There are people still feeling pain from this even if they’re 60 years old. That was painful because you never expect that type of behavior from the person who was to be caring for them. So I think it’s making a statement, and I think it has to make a statement,” she said.

Joseph Curran, Professor of Religious Studies and Chair of the Religious Studies Department  said the response was important because it showed how the cover-up of sexual abuse is just as bad as the abuse itself.

“As far as I’m concerned, the cover-up is almost more of a scandal from the church’s standpoint on sexual abuse because the sexual abuse is pathological. It’s evil. People who are doing it, of course, are guilty of doing a terrible thing, but the people who engaged in a cover-up or church leaders who are supposed to be taking care of the people and are supposed to be preaching the gospel, and they’re supposed to care for this group of people, this community, and they chose to do something that would cover it up because they felt like it would protect the institutional church,” he said.

Curran said it was crucial for the university to do something that said it does not agree with what the bishops did, even to the point of no longer honoring their names because of the actions they chose to take.

He also said that while the renaming was important, more steps need to be taken to ensure further incidents do not happen.

“I’d like to see us as a department and university really examine very carefully what’s going in the church and what was going in the church that led to this because what you see is all over Pennsylvania and all over the country, all these men who were bishops, who really had the same serious moral failing, and you have to ask what is it about their training, about the institution, about the theology of that institution that led to that. I think it’s a real problem. So, I think we need to do more, but that was a good start,” Curran said.

Botzman said the renaming is the most appropriate action that can be taken right now, but he also said he hopes more can be done through education and the generation of conversation.

“My hope is that it gets us to talk about some really difficult things. Part of being a university is that we have to talk about things that are both comfortable to us and things that are uncomfortable, and it’s not always because you and I have different views, but sometimes, both our views aren’t perfect and how do we get closer to what the truth really is. The truth hurts a lot. Right now, the truth should hurt and all of us have to make sure that the others are taken care of, so that the truth can come out and we can move forward together,” he said.

Megan Oldak, sophomore occupational therapy major, said she is in full support of the school’s decision to remove the names.

“I think it was a smart move on their part to remove the names just because it’s horrible what’s been going on. We shouldn’t be honoring someone for the horrible acts that they’ve committed,” she said.

Oldak said, at the same time, she doesn’t think the renaming will make much of an impact on the campus community because most people were not aware the science building had a proper name. She said, however, she thinks it will instill a sense of pride in students and faculty at the university.

“It makes me happier about Misericordia because when I first heard the story, I wasn’t sure if they were going to do anything or acknowledge because I had heard other colleges like Scranton and Kings were already in the process of removing names. I think it will make people say, ‘Go Mis’ and be proud of Mis for doing it,” she said.

Messaros said she does not think the response will have a major impact, but she hopes it will spark more conversations and discussions among the students.

“Depending on how much information our students may have, I’m not so sure it’s going to make an impact. Would I like it to? In one sense, yes, so that it makes us think a little more and discuss a little bit more about what happened because it’s wrong,” she said.

She said she thinks faculty can be helpful in starting these discussions and hopes such sharing will motivate students to be a part of the effort to prevent this from happening again.

“I wish that, as young men and women in a university, that conversations could be had about these things to understand. It’s telling the church now, ‘Hey, let’s be more attentive.’ Let us, as part of the church, pray for the well-being of those who were harmed and see that this never happens again,” she said.

Curran said he hopes people will come together and start thinking about methods of prevention.

“I just think we as a Catholic university need to think about what reform is necessary to make sure this never happens again. I think that’s the next step, and that’s where I hope we would be able to engage the campus community and I’m not sure what that looks like yet, but it’s something we’re starting to think about in this department,” he said.

He also said he is pleased with the actions the university chose to take.

“I’m proud of the university. It was something that needed to be done. It was an important statement and we moved pretty quickly, but we also moved deliberately and in a way that showed due process and consideration. So, I’m proud of the university. I think it was a good move,” Curran said.

Botzman said he will continue looking into the situation so he is able to make good decisions on future actions.

“There are parts of what happened that are clearly wrong, but we also have to understand that we have to seek the truth, we have to seek to do what is right, and we have to do that to the best of our abilities. That doesn’t mean we can fix all the awful things that happened, but it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try. We can’t make everything better, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have all this responsibility to try to do better. It’s an important first step, the renaming of a building, the removal of an honorary scholarship, but they’re just first steps and we’ll go from there,” he said.